by Mike Potter
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM Duke gets a chance to get to the NCAA Women's Tournament Sweet 16 for the 12th time in the last 13 years, and the home court definitely gives the Blue Devils an advantage.
But tonight's opponent for No. 6 Duke, the No. 2 seed in the Memphis Region, is No. 21 and No. 7 seed LSU, which is also long and quick and athletic.
Both teams were just able to out-athlete their first-round opponents here on Monday, with Duke easily dispatching Hampton and LSU doing the same to Hartford.
That won't happen at all tonight, as the Tigers come in and make it nearly a 40-minute war. But the Blue Devils get big contributions from four different players over the final 10 minutes and advance to Memphis 60-52.
The Tigers take advantage early and lead for over 33 minutes. Duke does lead 4-2 on a Jasmine Thomas steal and layup with 18:44 left in the first, but LSU recovers to go up 15-8 on a pair of LaSondra Barrett free throws at 12:18.
Duke ties the score at 25-all on Bridgette Mitchell's layup with five seconds left in the half.
Things stay tight for a while, with LSU taking its biggest lead of the second half at 37-33 on a pair of Allison Hightower free throws at 12:39.
But the Blue Devils finally take the lead for good at 48-47 on a Jasmine Thomas layup with 3:34 to go.
Spurred on by an enthusiastic and sometimes near-deafening home crowd of 4,044 in the final home game for Mitchell, Joy Cheek and Keturah Jackson, Duke clinches it when a pair of Christmas free throws with 23 seconds left make it 56-49.
Jasmine Thomas leads the Blue Devils with 15 points, while Mitchell comes off the bench to hit 12 in 27 minutes.
Hightower leads the Tigers with 19 points, followed by Barrett with 12 and Courtney Jones 11.
The Blue Devils shoot 44.2 percent to LSU's 41.7, win the rebound battle 32-27 and commit 19 turnovers to the Tigers' 22.
LSU has three players go 40 minutes, and doesn't get a single point off the bench.
They said it:
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: "It was a tremendous basketball game. There were so many ties and lead changes, a terrific basketball game overall. LSU is a terrific basketball team and I am really proud of our team, especially the second half defense with the field-goal percentage that was forced (33.3 for LSU), the way our team stayed together as a unit and the way our team communicated and stayed together. I particularly liked some of the plays that were made by ... Karima Christmas, Bridgette Mitchell, Jasmine Thomas and I have to add Joy Cheek to that list."
LSU coach Van Chancellor: "I'm really proud of our team - this is the proudest I've been of our team all year even though we lost the game. I thought we left it all on the floor today. I thought our kids came to play and we gave it everything we had. Their style of play and playing here with all those fans on top of you, they press you and cause a lot of problems. We hung in and played hard and played as hard as we could."
Jasmine Thomas: "We finally got control of the game when we got stops down the stretch and more rebounds. During the whole game, we couldn't buy a rebound put-back but we got some down at the end. ... This is nothing we didn't think we could do. It's just good to get back to this point so we can go on and prove ourselves from here.
Mitchell: "My teammates did a good job of finding me when I was open. We (guards) practice dribble pull-up jump shots all the time, so it was nothing different. It was just open for me tonight."
What does it all mean?
That Duke overcame a tough challenge with a big finish, and still has its chance to get to the Final Four.
Stars of the game
2. J. Thomas.
Play of the game
Joy Cheek's rebound and reverse layup with 1:24 left to put Duke up 54-49.
Duke leads 3-2.
Duke: Won 5.
LSU: Lost 1.
Duke vs. West Virginia or San Diego State in Memphis, Saturday.